Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Using Spoons

I've read all about spoon theory. Who hasn't? Well, perhaps people who don't spend far too much time on Tumblr and Facebook haven't. The idea can be read here, but to put it briefly, while people with no issues start the day with unlimited spoons, those of us with a chronic condition or other issues start the day with a limited supply. If you choose to use your spoons on putting on your makeup and walking to the bus you will have fewer spoons to use later on other things. But I'd always seen these restricted amount of spoons as something for those with depression, those with narcolepsy, those with chronic fatigue, and so on.

I've only just realised that, as an autistic person, I'm running on a limited amount of spoons too. (I'm not always very self aware.) Perhaps on a perfect day, when I can stay at home, when there are no other people around, when I have nothing pressing to deal with, my spoons are limitless too. But as soon as you pull in interaction with the great world, suddenly the spoons disappear. I was quite willing to understand that when I feel depressed I might be working on limited spoons, but issues relating to autism - well, I'm just being silly. Everyone else manages. Why can't I? Why did I need two years out of education after finishing my mandatory schooling? Why can't I manage to socialise two days in a row without huge fallout?

The joy of spending too much time on Facebook and Tumblr is you realise you're not alone, that you're not just being silly, weak, making a fuss. There are other people out there, people who have the same struggle, people who advocate for you. People who have your back.

So there I was last night sitting in a theatre watching a brilliant show. And using up spoons. I'd already used up quite a lot of spoons on anxiety through the days leading up to going out. And then when we were there, there was a lobby full of people to navigate. There goes a spoon. I had a moment with the security guard at the door who made me pour away my water, the water I always have with me, so I ended up with a bought bottle, an unfamiliar bottle with unfamiliar tasting water. That was another two spoons. I wasn't very familiar with my surroundings, although I tried to compensate by at least looking at a seating plan in advance. Another spoon. The music was loud, so loud I can't believe 'normal' people can stand it. That was a spoon gone. And there were a lot of women in the audience, a lot of women wearing perfume, deodorant, hairspray, make-up, and whatever other stinking products 'normal' people choose to put on their bodies. Another spoon gone. I was wearing 'nice' clothes, including earrings and high heels. Another spoon. The show, being Priscilla Queen of the Desert, was visually very glitzy. Mirror balls, disco lights. There's another spoon. The show was emotionally affecting. There's a big spoon right there. And I was surrounded by people for hours. People clapping, people whooping, people acting in bizarrely unpredictable ways. Dear god, people. I don't know how to handle people. That's a whole ladle.

I had an amazing, brilliant night. I'm glad I went. I would go again. But I did pretty much pick up an entire drawer full of spoons and throw them to the wind. Today I have very little left. Today I feel depressed. I feel uneasy. I feel exhausted. I don't want stimulation, I don't want chatter. I don't want to interact with people. I'm not concentrating very well. I don't have much patience. Three hours or so of fun last night is still having its repercussions almost twenty four hours later. I've never felt able to explain this to people before. How do you tell someone that yes you want to socialise with them but that you'll be dealing with the fallout for so long afterwards that you'll be pretty much useless for normal life? How do you explain that having a wonderful evening will make you feel the next day like life isn't worth living, and you'll have to spend all your time catching those nasty little intrusive thoughts before they catch hold?

But there it is. That is autism, and yes, people with autism can have a limited number of spoons, just like people with more visible issues. I wouldn't swap it for the world. I doubt most of the audience experienced the performance to anything like the depth I did. But for this, I pay. I have limited spoons, and I hope this helps you understand.

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